NBA: Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat Preview, Betting Picks & Predictions

Dwyane WadeThe Chicago Bulls (4-4) visit the Miami Heat (2-4) tonight in a matchup between two teams featuring several players in new roles (8.05pm ET Thursday on TNT). It will be Dwyane Wade’s first contest back in Miami after the future Hall of Famer left his team of 10 years for Chicago during the offseason.

The Bulls have been up and down to start the year while integrating new rotation pieces Rajon Rondo, Wade (pictured) and Robin Lopez. The Heat have struggled to find an offensive rhythm without the likes of Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Luol Deng and are relying on a stingy defense to stay competitive.

Our preview will look at the key storylines that could shape this game, prior to giving our betting predictions and picks.

Will the Bulls clean up the defensive sloppiness?

The Chicago Bulls have established themselves early on as one of the league’s Jekyll and Hyde teams, especially on defense. You don’t know which Bulls squad is going to show up heading into a given game.

Chicago has allowed only 93.5 points per 100 possessions in its four wins this season, but that number balloons to 118.0 points per 100 possessions in its three losses prior to Wednesday night’s 115-107 defeat in Atlanta. Effort seems to be the biggest reason for the inconsistency.

The biggest problem might be Rondo, who is playing a long way short of his defensive powers at the moment. It is other players, too, though, and defense is always a team effort. One player doesn’t usually make a defense bad on his own, and that’s no exception with the Bulls. Rondo will still definitely be key. Goran Dragic will make him pay in pick-and-roll situations if the veteran point guard doesn’t even try on defense.

Can Either of the Heat’s Starting Wings Step Up?

Miami has the third-worst offense in the league right now. A lot of the blame goes to the two starting wings, Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow, both of whom are shooting below 32 percent from the field.

Winslow has been a nightmare from three-point range this season (3-of-20 for 15 percent) and is also having some surprising trouble finishing around the rim. Waiters has been just dreadful at finishing around the rim (30.8 percent within two feet) and is committing 2.5 turnovers per contest, which is more than you want from a guy averaging 9.5 points per game.

One of those two will likely be checked by Jimmy Butler, who is one of the top defensive wings in the league. The job of that player will be merely to make Butler expend some effort. The other guy likely will have Wade on him. Wade used to be an elite defender, but he’s not consistent with his effort anymore. It will be up to the guy Wade is guarding to be a positive contribution to the offense, which hasn’t been the case with Winslow or Waiters thus far.

Will the Bulls dominate the boards?

In somewhat of a surprising development, the Bulls are leading the league with an offensive rebound percentage of 33.1 and an overall rebound percentage of 56.4. The Heat, meanwhile, are just 26th at getting defensive rebounds and are 21st overall.

The battle on the glass will be a bloodbath if those numbers continue. Hassan Whiteside has been a monster on the boards (13.8 rebounds per contest), but he has gotten almost no help. The Bulls have done a great job getting all five players on the court involved in their glass effort, and that will continue if the Heat continue to let Whiteside try and fend for himself on missed shots.

One matchup to watch is at power forward, between the Heat’s Luke Babbitt and the Bulls’ Taj Gibson. Babbitt is on the floor to space the court for his teammates on offense, but he doesn’t have the physical attributes to keep up with Gibson inside. The Heat may be forced to use other options if that matchup becomes a problem.

Our Preview’s Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat Betting Picks & Predictions

The Bulls are an especially inconsistent team, so they are a tough team to peg. However, coming off that road contest in Atlanta yesterday evening, the team’s older players might not have the gas they would normally have to run with the young and rested Heat. Even Wade might have trouble mustering the necessary energy for his homecoming.

Our preview’s betting picks and predictions for this game are:

  • The Heat are 1.5-point favorites for Thursday’s contest, which makes going with them a strong bet. The two teams are close to evenly-matched in terms of talent, but taking into account home-court advantage and the back-to-back for Chicago, you have to go with Miami -1.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes or BetOnline sportsbooks, two of the better options for USA online betting.
  • The over-under for today’s contest is posted at around 200. Yes, these are two of the slower teams in the league, but look for Miami to attempt to blitz the weary Bulls in transition early on and speed the game up. Bet the over on this one @ -110 with 5Dimes. It is -115 with BetOnline and, at time of writing, Bovada has not posted its odds.